• Humor and Tragedy

    Yesterday, tragedy struck the city of Boston as two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. At least three people have died and over a hundred are wounded with some even losing limbs. The photos are horrific and heart wrenching but the good news is that the world continues to spin.

    Sadly, several people on social media are outraged that there are already people joking about the Boston Marathon bombing. Some have even threatened to unfriend/unfollow those who joke about this tragedy or who “like” a joke about this tragedy. For me, this is the real tragedy.

    The fact is that people deal with tragedy in different ways. Many people deal with tragedy through humor. I am one of those people. The best example of this happened on September 11, 2001, which just so happens to be my birthday. My brother was living in New York City not all that far away from the World Trade Center. I remember trying to call him after the towers went down. After a while, I finally got through and my brother told me that he wanted to do something special for my birthday, so he lit a couple of candles. He then asked if it was “too soon?”

    I was of course terribly offended and immediately cut off all contact with my brother and never spoke to him again… of course not! I laughed. The joke wasn’t even that funny, but at the time it was such a relief to know that he was alive and well, that I found it funny anyway. That’s the power of humor.

    I know an old high school friend who runs a lot of marathons. I’m not particularly close to him, but yesterday I wandered over to his Facebook page any way to see if he was at the Boston Marathon and if so, if he was okay. He issued a statement saying that he finished way ahead of the bomb blast so he was fine. While he might have actually been finished with the race before the bomb blast, I could tell that he was half joking about it. Should I unfriend him for joking about the tragedy from the tragedy itself?

    Obviously, context is everything. Some jokes are just mean spirited, but most are just aimed at helping to deal with tragedy. The fact is that the world goes on and we are left having to pick up the pieces. We can use humor to do that. It isn’t for some people and I am not demanding that everyone must tell jokes about tragedy, but I don’t want people to outlaw or shun people because they do use humor in the face of tragedy.

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    Category: FacebookFree Speech

    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.

    One comment

    1. I get the feeling that judging someone for cracking a joke at the expense of a tragedy (assuming,
      no one that was victim of the said tragedy is involved and present) is akin to judging a thought crime, A very popular sport nowadays. It’s like getting offended on behalf of an imaginary friend, and the imaginary friend is not even present.
      I came across this book and read it for leissure in college, Laughter in Hell: The Use of Humor During the Holocaust by Steve Lipman, and really changed the way I view humor. The way it can be a healing salve, an act of defiance and a weapon.

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